Cognitive Dissonance

"Democracy! Bah! When I hear that I reach for my feather boa!" - Allen Ginsberg

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Postmortem of the GOP National Security debate

Of course the debate had to kick off with introductions. Like we had no clue who these people on stage were or why they were there…

My first thought: I cannot believe anyone but Huntsman has a serious chance. My second thought: There’s no way anyone but Huntsman should be anywhere near the nuclear football. Shit, Huntsman is the only one who can properly pronounce “nuclear” with consistency. 

Herman Cain got hardly any questions, and completely, utterly boned the questions that he did answer. So much for the Cain train, folks. Cain claimed our national security has been downgraded. Obama sighed and reminded Cain about this one dude named Bin Laden. He claimed we couldn’t bomb Iran because it has mountains(?), and that if we left Afghanistan, they’d suddenly become BFFs with Iran. Further, he said we must cut off foreign aid to Africa unless we see results. Not too controversial until you place it in context - he was talking about foreign aid for prevention and treatment of HIV. He also managed to fumble Wolf Blitzer’s name, calling him “Blitz.” In short, he knows nothing about national security, places with mountains can’t be bombed because reasons, and fuck people with AIDS in Africa. 

Michele Bachmann went off again about the ACLU controlling CIA interrogations under Obama. Rep. Bachmann, the ACLU would like to have a word with you. Then she launched into a strange point about terrorists and technology changing. Basically, when we first thought about terrorism, phones were attached to the wall with wires and now terrorists have cell phones. Whatever that means. She then claimed Pakistan and the Middle East have seen six attempted terrorist attacks on nuclear facilities. Bachmann also called Perry naive and claimed Obama is threatening national security by canceling the Keystone Pipeline. It’s not cancelled - the U.S. State Department ordered a new route be found for it. Plus, the governor of Nebraska called for the delay, not Obama. Yep. She kept babbling about magnets in regards to immigration.

Shorter Bachmann: Magnets. How do they work? Fuckin’ miracles. On Iraq, she claimed “We need to remember, we won the peace in Iraq. And now President Obama is intentionally choosing to give that peace away.” Uh-huh. Her true gem was when she said she knows all about existential threats. I’m sure Bachmann knows all about existential threats. I question her existence as a serious candidate often.

Jon Huntsman came out strong. He was emphatic that the military buildup overseas and defense budget we are currently running is unnecessary and repeated that any nation building must first begin at home. Huntsman also said strengthening the PATRIOT Act is not the best national security policy because it involves forfeiture of liberties at home - a point introduced by Ron Paul. He called for negotiation with both allies and enemies. Huntsman also ripped Romney a new one after Romney accused Huntsman of wanting America to fail because he suggested drawing down troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to Huntsman, indefinite war is expensive and makes us no friends. Who knew? Essentially, his opinions were well-reasoned, thought-out policy positions versus talking points, and he’ll never succeed in the polls with the current GOP. He has the best quote of the night:

"‎I have to say that our biggest problem is right here at home. And you can see it on every street corner. It’s called joblessness. It’s called lack of opportunity. It’s called debt, that has become a national security problem in this country. And it’s also called a trust deficit, a Congress that nobody believes in anymore, an executive branch that has no leadership, institutions of power that we no longer believe in. How can we have any effect on foreign policy abroad when we are so weak at home? We have no choice. We’ve got to get on our feet here domestically."

Newt Gingrich bloviated whenever the camera was on him. His speech was slurred and he lost his train of thought a few times, but compared to Perry, etc. he was put together. Personally, I thought Newt looked exhausted or ill. He finally found his pet moderator, Wolf Blitzer. Blitzer kissed his ass several times, with questions like, “Mr. Speaker, I remember you and Reagan did x…” and turned to Newt for historical “fact” - until Blitzer led him into the minefield of immigration. Suddenly, friends off. Gingrich posited a fairly reasonable solution (compared to others) in regards to immigration, though after reactions from other candidates, he became slightly incoherent. His idea was that immigrants found to be undocumented, who have close ties to the U.S., would not necessarily be deported. Slightly less radical than Cain’s electric fence. The other candidates pushed him off the moment of compassion, and as soon as CNN started their post-debate coverage, he was all about take-backs with his immigration stance. He also made an odd point about defeating Nazis with our natural resources like oil and our confidence. Gingrich called Ron Paul “my friend” and I think Paul nearly came over the podium.

Ron Paul continued his powerful performance in the debates. He unequivocally opposed the extension of the PATRIOT Act and said we need to get out of the conflicts we’re involved in due to expense and the fact that we’re not directly threatened by any countries with which we’re currently engaged. Paul stated the PATRIOT Act undermines liberty and when several candidates endorsed profiling Muslims (really) Paul just about lost it. He emphasized white people, specifically, American white people, have committed acts of terrorism as well. Remember Timothy McVeigh? Ron Paul does. He also refused to pander to the pro-Israel folks, saying Israel can stand on its own and if it attacks other countries, it should pay the price like any other nation. Paul also said we should end the war on drugs immediately, particularly for medical marijuana patients. Too bad his compassion doesn’t extend farther. Say what you will about Paul, at least he’s consistent. Then he went all Grampa Simpson and said we should export the free market to Africa. We did. It’s called exploitation. 

Rick Perry got little airtime. He had the same night Cain did. Perry kept harping about sanctioning Iran’s bank, which the Obama administration stopped just short of doing recently. He criticized the Obama administration for being ineffective, yet praised “our security forces” in regards to stopping recent terroristic threats. Apparently, he’s forgotten Obama is still the commander-and-chief. He finally said that intelligence under the Obama administration has been a failure, apparently forgetting about Osama bin Laden. Perry wants to make TSA more effective by privatizing it, because TSA’s main problem is unions. He endorsed racial profiling like nearly every other candidate. He also said Obama’s debt committee failure was because of the trigger (a republican measure - remember Boehner said they got 98% of what they wanted). His explanation:

"So the idea that you can’t sit down and work with people on both sides of the aisle, but just to, you know, throw us into — into that briar patch at this particular point in time and say, what would you do — we would never have gotten into that situation if I were the president of the United States. I’d have been there working day in and day out so that we had a budget that not only — I’ve laid out a clear plan to — flat tax of 20 percent; cut the spending; and put a 20 percent corporate tax rate in. And, as a matter of fact, they ought to make the legislature, the Congress, part-time, and that would make as big an impact in this city as anything I can think of."

So yeah, if you can parse that, more power to you.

Mitt Romney was slicker than usual. He didn’t have the tousled hair of a few debates ago. He looked like a presidential Ken doll. Romney suggested TSA needs to be more efficient with pat downs and that some folks could go through faster than others. Oh, and maybe we don’t need to do pat-downs but whatever, sure, next talking point. This caught my attention (emphasis mine):

We need tools when war is waged domestically to ensure that as president of the United States you can fulfill your first responsibility which is to protect the life, liberty and property of American citizens and defend them from foes domestic and foreign. That means yes we’ll use the constitution and criminal law for those people who commit crimes but those who commit war and attack the United States and pursue treason of various kinds we will use instead a very different form of law which is the law afforded to those who are fighting America.

What law? That’s called the Geneva Convention first off - and Romney’s endorsed torture. This is some serious pandering. What about Americans suspected of terrorism? Is that the same as treason? Scary shit, folks. Romney also mispronounced “modernity” multiple times and I feel that says a lot about the GOP. He pointed out America’s approval rating in Pakistan is 12% and we should work with them. I don’t see why Romney is too worried - that’s three points above Congress in a recent CBS/New York Times poll.

Rick Santorum is batshit. Period. I’ll just give a sample of what he said…

On profiling: "Well, the folks who are most likely to be committing these crimes. If you look at — I mean, obviously, it was — obviously, Muslims would be — would be someone you’d look at, absolutely. Those are the folks who are — the radical Muslims are the people that are committing these crimes, as we’ve — by and large, as well as younger males. I mean, these are things that — not exclusively — but these are things that you profile to — to find your best — the most likely candidate."

On holy war: “We are not fighting a war on terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic. We’re fighting a war against radical Islam.”

On redefining geography: ”Africa was a country on the brink. On the brink of complete meltdown and chaos, which would have been fertile ground for the radical Islamists to be able to — to get — to get a foothold.”

On alliances: ”Well, I’ve spent a lot of time and concern — and Rick mentioned this earlier — about what’s going on in Central and South America. I’m very concerned about the militant socialists and there — and the radical Islamists joining together, bonding together. I’m concerned about the spread of socialism and that this administration, with — time after time, whether it was the delay in moving forward on Colombia’s free trade agreement, whether it was turning our back to the Hondurans and standing up for democracy and the — and the rule of law. And we took the side with Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro for a corrupt President. We’ve sent all the wrong signals to Central and South America.”

Winners: Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Magnets, the ACLU, Barack Obama
Losers: Brown people who wish to fly without being profiled, liberty, Americans living in poverty, Herman Cain

Here’s my comments during the debate:

Filed under Debate GOP debate debate summary politics The Heritage Foundation Jon Huntsman Herman Cain Michele Bachmann Newt Gingrich Ron Paul Rick Perry Mitt Romney Rick Santorum GOP Republican republicans National security

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Tonight’s CBS/National Journal Debate

Three thoughts off the bat:

  1. This debate was called “The Republican Commander-in-Chief Debate” and I’m going to say right now: If this is the best the GOP has to offer, they better start kissing Huntsman’s ass or Obama can simply kick his feet up and let this circus implode.
  2. NJ in the #CBSNJdebate seriously should have meant nut job, not “National Journal”
  3. The audience cheered assassinating American citizens who support acts against the US and Michele Bachmann endorsing China’s economic/social model because “they don’t have food stamps.” Where the hell do these people come from?

Summary:

Herman Cain was lost because he couldn’t use 9-9-9. For real. He said he disagrees with torture but would let “the people on the ground” decide what torture is and isn’t. His biggest blunder was declaring that we still don’t know if Pakistan is “friend or foe” and that the U.S. should cut off military aid to Pakistan. Cain said if he were in charge, the mission and goals of victory would be clear for Afghanistan. Moderators punted by not asking him what those thresholds would be and how would they be determined. Regarding Pakistan: Where did we find Bin Laden again, and we have cut off aid. Obama did that. 

Newt Gingrich was a patronizing asshole. He said the Arab Spring is in danger of turning Anti-Christian and if that happens, we should intervene. Gingrich made a bizarre point about following the “Reagan/Thatcher/John Paul II plan” against Iran. WTF? He attacked moderators for not knowing the rule of law regarding presidential authority with assassination and endorsed a “review panel” with the power to direct assassinations of anyone who is “against the United States.” That’s right, a death panel. He summed it up with “You kill people who are trying to kill you.” He also said we don’t currently have a reliable intelligence force. Like the one that found Osama Bin Laden, amirite?! </sarcasm>

Michele Bachmann seemed to rail in the batshit for just a few seconds when talking about foreign aid. She said eliminating all foreign aid is simplistic and wouldn’t work. And then…. we got to nukes. Bachmann claimed that Obama supports Occupy Wall Street, but not Israel, and that places Israel in danger of “World Wide Nuclear War” with everyone but us. She forgets that Obama HAS increased aid to Israel and has gone so far as to approve secret arms sales to Israel that were denied by the Bush administration. But facts are hard. Bachmann wants to reform TriCare (military’s health care program) by “modernization” - essentially, privatization. Oh, and she endorsed torture as well and said the CIA is being run by the ACLU. Finally, she praised China for not having food stamps or AFDC and that the US should be more like China. Even though she spent the last debate fear-mongering about China. 

Mitt Romney endorsed torture and assassinating American citizens. He didn’t seem to see any controversy associated with it. Also, he endorsed cooperation with the Arab world while simultaneously endorsing torturing its people and reducing foreign aid. Romney suggested getting into a trade war with China, not spending money to intervene in foreign affairs unless we spend money to help Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and said we must link public sector pay to the rates of private sector pay. So university professors at public universities should make as much as those at private ones? How about soldiers making as much as Xe/Blackwater missionaries? Romney echoed bits of what others said and didn’t really seem to have any clear policy ideas other than “repeal Obamacare.” One minute, he wanted to be diplomatic with other countries. The next, he’s okay steamrolling in with tanks. The best part was watching Romney as Perry fumbled through answers. A picture says a thousands words:

Rick Perry made a few cracks about his massive brain implosion last debate. That was about as good as his performance ever got. Perry wants to start all foreign aid at zero, which would include Israel, then quickly added that Israel would “obviously” get a boost in foreign aid later on in the debate. He was completely incapable of answering a question when it was asked, always choosing to address the previous question and irritating moderators who asked him to answer the question. Perry generated more word salad than a filibuster by Sarah Palin. He went back and forth on endorsing torture. Then we got to the assassination of American citizens. Perry chided Ron Paul for objecting based on the Geneva Conventions and international law. He said “war is lawless” and that he would support that view “until the day he dies.” He also praised the economic models of France and Germany, forgetting about the whole Democratic socialism and parliamentary system of government thing. His attitude summed up via gif:

Ron Paul had his best debate ever. When you listen to him talk on foreign policy, you forget about his harsh anti-abortion stances and non-support of civil rights law. When the other candidates were endorsing torture and assassinating Americans, Paul kept insisting (rightly) that you cannot do that and expect to be seen as a beacon of democracy or to have any moral ground when expecting other countries to obey the same laws. He said torture is illegal, immoral, impractical, uncivilized, and un-American. He pointed out that the others were endorsing giving authority to the president and a panel to assassinate people when “we don’t trust them to even run our health care” and exclaimed, “You better look at that idea real carefully!” He also pointed out the US keeps supporting then overthrowing dictators and that’s “costly foreign policy” to continue.

Rick Santorum acted as Newt Gingrich’s echo chamber. His standout fail was when he claimed the US must “follow the Geneva Convention” and endorsed waterboarding in the same sentence. He also proclaimed the use of torture unearthed vital information and it works, completely disregarding numerous published reports to the contrary. Again, facts are hard. Santorum had a Tom Clancy moment talking about how US intelligence shows there’s numerous dead “terrorist scientists,” “scientists” and “computer virus threats” in Russia and Iran, so the US should not be afraid to intervene. Y’know, the SAME intelligence service he agreed is incompetent. He was out of his element because he couldn’t talk about social wedge issues. Santorum was itching to scream, “NUKE THE GAY ABORTIONS!” but managed to keep it in check.

Jon Huntsman was, again, the adult in the room who reminded the others on the playground you can’t beat people up and take their lunch money just because you don’t like them. Huntsman had one of the best lines in a debate thus far when he disagreed with everyone but Paul and said we should come home from Afghanistan, saying, “I don’t want to be nation-building in Afghanistan when this nation needs to be built at home.” He also said a trade war with China was a stupid idea because it would adversely affect businesses in the US. Huntsman was the only person to recognize a military veteran for his service when said veteran asked a question about supporting torture. Huntsman said he did not and pointed to it setting a bad precedent. Huntsman and Paul should have debated foreign policy because each of them has a clear, articulate vision for US foreign policy. In other words, they know shit. Huntsman’s low was endorsing the Paul Ryan plan for deficit reduction. He’s smarter than that. 

So there you have it. It’s somewhat terrifying for anyone but Huntsman or Paul to be taken seriously, especially on foreign affairs.

Filed under National Journal debate Republican republican debate Herman Cain Newt Gingrich Michele Bachmann Mitt Romney Rick Perry Ron Paul Rick Santorum Jon Huntsman Ow my brain debate summary summary CBS debate